Cathedral of Seville – Designed to Show the City’s Power and Wealth:
The Cathedral of Seville was built over an area where a former Almohad mosque once stood. The Moorish entrance court (Patio de los Naranjos) and the original minaret of the mosque (now called La Giralda), are two features of the 12th century mosque that have been preserved. With its Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architectural styles and the richness of its interior, it comes as no surprise that this site is World Heritage listed.
Cathedral of Seville
In the 13th century, when King Fernando III of Castile conquered Seville, he hardly modified the original architecture, conserving the ablutions courtyard (now the Patio de los Naranjos) and the minaret (now the Giralda tower). But an earthquake in 1356 left the mosque in a bad shape.
When a decision was made to build a new temple in the 15th century, the expressed plan was “to make a church that is so large that those who see it will think we are mad”. Construction began in 1401 and it took over a century to complete. Whether the canons of Seville were merely expressing a desire to show off the city’s power and wealth after the Reconquista, the end result is a Seville Cathedral that is the third largest Christian church in Europe after St Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St Paul’s Cathedral in London. It is also the largest Gothic building in Europe and its altarpiece is the largest in the world.
Star Attractions of Seville Cathedral
- On entering the Puerta de San Cristobal, on the south side of the Cathedral, we find that one of the highlights of our visit, the Tomb of Christopher Columbus, was immediately to our right. His coffin is supported by four figures representing the four former Spanish kingdoms (Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre). Columbus was previously interred in Valladolid where he died. His remains were moved around a few times, including the cathedral of Havana. But during the Cuban revolution in 1898, the Spanish government transferred his remains to Seville.
- The Capilla Mayor, the Royal Chapel, whose altarpiece is the largest and richest in the world. This Gothic Retablo Mayor, made up of 44 gilded relief panels, was designed by Pieter Dancart and carved by Spanish and Flemish sculptors between 1482 and 1564. The panels depicting scenes from the life of Christ are carved in wood and covered with huge amounts of gold.
- 16th-century stained-glass windows and the iron screens fencing off the chapels.
- The Sacrista Mayor houses many works of art.
- Inside the Cathedral are over a thousand Biblical scenes around the walls. These were carved at a time when few churchgoers could read and hence had to learn the stories by seeing images.
- La Giralda – Seville Cathedral’s Moorish belltower and its famous weathervane El Giraldillo
You exit the cathedral into the shade and the scent of the orange trees in the Patio de las Naranjas – that is if you are there at the right season. We unfortunately did not get to smell the orange blossoms. During the Moorish period, this was where worshipers would wash their hands and feet in the fountain under the orange trees before prayers.
There is a lot to see in the Cathedral of Seville, but as always when visiting historic cathedrals there is only so much that we can absorb on any one visit. Thankfully, we have photos to jolt our memories on what we saw.
Cathedral of Seville
Avenida de la Constitucion
Map of Seville: